There is no doubt the Stars would rather have Jonas Gustavsson as their backup goalie next season.
That's why they waited so long for the young Swedish free agent to make his decision.
But, for the purposes of succeeding next season, Dallas might actually be better off with Alex Auld as their backup.
After losing out on Gustavsson, who choose Toronto instead, the Stars scrambled to acquire Auld from the Ottawa Senators, and believe they have found a very nice backup plan at backup goalie.
There is no doubt that Gustavsson's upside is higher than Auld's, but the history of European goalies having quick success in the NHL is a bit shaky. In fact, the history of any goalie stepping in quickly is a little shaky. So there is some risk involved in Gustavsson, and the Stars could be a little bit fragile at the beginning of next season.
Bottom line, this team has a new coach and a new GM in large part because the start of last season was so weak. Even before the team was battling injuries, it was battling its own demons in a 4-6-2 start. In that stretch, the Stars allowed five or more goals seven times.
So, obviously, getting good goaltending to start the season is a huge priority. Is Auld better equipped to contribute to that right off the bat? I'll make the argument that he is.
For one, Auld is 28 and has played 183 NHL games. And secondly, he has played a good many of those games with Marc Crawford as his head coach and Andy Moog as his goalie coach.
That should give the Stars a little bit of an advantage in how they want to run their goaltending duo. If indeed, the Stars want to hold Marty Turco to 55 appearances or less, they can do that by making plans for Auld to start certain games right out of the gate (let's say four or five games out of the first 14 in October) _ and they can stick to their schedule. The Stars last season rode Turco through a tough stretch when they probably should have sat him more. The coaches didn't have faith in rookie Tobias Stephan and didn't give him his first start until the 10th game of the season. What's more, they gave him only three starts in the first 61 games.
That was going to change under Crawford, but what if Gustavsson struggled in training camp and preseason? What if he was bad in his first few games? Then, what would the coaches have done?
Now, the same thing could happen with Auld, but the chances are better that it won't.
Auld last season posted a 16-18-7 record with a bad Ottawa team and had a 2.47 GAA and .911 save percentage. The season before, he had a 9-7-5 record as a backup for Boston and had a 2.32 GAA and .919 save percentage. He can definitely eat up minutes, and he can put up consistent if unspectacular numbers.
Now, there are some shaky stints as a backup in Florida and Phoenix that preceded his most recent success, but Auld before that showed he can definitely play a lot of minutes. When Dan Cloutier was hurt in Vancouver, Auld came in and went 33-26-6 with a 2.94 GAA and .902 save percentage. Auld faded down the stretch, and the Canucks missed the playoffs that season, and Crawford made a point when Auld was acquired that he still has some work to do.
But the coach knows the goalie, and knows what buttons to push. What's more, the goalie knows the coach and should help act as a bridge between Turco and Crawford. Auld would love to become a No. 1 goalie, but he knows his role here. He knows that the plan is to make Marty Turco the best goalie he can be, and that actually can make for a better dynamic on this team.
Could Gustavsson maybe have pushed Turco and fought for the No. 1 job this season? That's a possibility, but I think more of a longshot than anything. Gustavsson's value to the team was probably more for the long term. For next season, Alex Auld could actually be a better option.